Simply The Best Natives-Nodding Onion


“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”   ~Ray Bradbury



About 7 years ago, when I purchased my first native plants, there was an interesting onion-looking plant among the group I brought home.  And soon after I planted it, a lovely Allium flower appeared in mid to late summer.

This plant, labeled Nodding Onion, is known as Allium cernuum part of the Lily Family (Liliaceae).  It DSCN1851is closely related to A. stellatum or Autumn Wild Onion, but you can spot the difference when they flower as A. cernuum has the distinctive nodding flower blooming from July through August.  

Nodding Onion is hardy from zones 4 to 8.  It can be found in dry to moist prairies and along stream banks from Canada to Mexico.  The grass-like foliage grows 1-2 feet high from a bulb.  True to its name, the plant has a mild onion scent.  As you can see in the picture above, the stem bends to allow the pinkish-purple flowers to nod toward the ground. 



As I profile this wonderful native plant, I am linking in with Gail@Clay and Limestone for her Wildflower Wednesday meme.  And I am joining forces once again this year with a local native plant nursery, Amanda’s Garden, to buy native plants for my garden.  The owner, Ellen Folts, specializes in woodland, prairie and wetland native perennials.  Check out her wonderful 2015 Spring Catalog to see which natives Ellen is selling this year.




Growing Conditions

DSCN6573This perennial herb requires part to full sun, and moist conditions to grow into a nice clump.  I keep mine in the drier front garden where I can control it a bit.  Once you allow this plant to naturalize, you will need to divide clumps every few years. 

Nodding Onion does like average to well-drained soil that is not too compacted.  The foliage dies back in early fall.

This Allium easily grows from seed or bulb once established.  I try to catch mine in early fall, before the seeds scatter so I am not overrun by it.  When starting this plant in your garden, transplant the bulb as it is easier than trying to germinate the seed.




Benefits to Wildlife 

DSCN1852Wildlife seems to love this plant.  Bulbs are sought after by bears and ground squirrels, and elk and deer will sometimes browse the early spring foliage.  Hairstreak butterflies are drawn to this plant as are hummingbirds.

The nectar and pollen of the flower attracts bees primarily as bees find it easier to hang upside down on the nodding flowers.  It is said the nodding of the flower protects the pollen from rain.





Allium cernuum is great in rock gardens, borders, cottage gardens or areas you want to naturalize with natives.

DSCN8297It tolerates browsing animals, drought, dry rocky soil as well as Black Walnut trees.

Nodding onions were used in cooking long ago, but not so much today.  I have read warnings that this plant is poisonous, but can be eaten in small amounts.  I have tried eating the bulbs in salad, for its mild onion flavor, with no ill effects.  If you do eat too much of the plant, you could have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea so use caution.

This plant also is said to have medicinal uses similar to garlic (Allium sativum).  It is used to treat respiratory ailments, kidney stones, colds, croup, sore throats and sores.  

The juice of the plant is also used as a repellent for insects, moles and biting insects.




Folklore and Tales DSCN8301

Native American tribes used the bulbs of Nodding Onion to treat cough, colic, colds and fevers.  

The leaves and bulbs were also eaten sparingly by some tribes.  They would mostly steam the plant in pits.  Once collected they would also dry them for use later.  

It is said that the city of Chicago gets its name from the Algonquin Indian name for this plant, chigagou.







Do you grow a native Allium?  Do you have a favorite Allium?




Join In The Seasonal Celebration:

As I feel autumn’s call to celebrate the coming season, I hope you will join in the celebration. I welcome those Down Under who will be celebrating the coming of spring to join in too.  

All you have to do is write a post between now and September 23rd  telling me how you are celebrating the new season.  Then leave a comment on the kick-off post with your link so I can include your link in my summary post on September 28th.  

I do hope you will consider joining in the Seasonal Celebrations meme as we celebrate the new season in your corner of the world.

And as always, I will be collaborating with Beth@Plant Postings and her Lessons Learned meme at this same time.  What lessons have you learned this past season of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere.  Write a separate post or combine your Lessons with your Celebrations for one post.




In A Vase On Monday 



lrg cut vase

The Cutting Garden is still going strong with loads of cosmos and sunflowers so they were perfect for this week’s vase.




lrg cutting vase

The few zinnia still blooming were too gorgeous not to cut and bring in for this vase.  I also added a bit of Baptisia foliage for a nice grey-green contrast. 




small cutting vase

I thought I would make a smaller vase as there were plenty of lovely blooms around the garden:  snapdragons or Antirrhinums, Japanese anemones, cosmos, Tagetes and tithonia.  Nepeta was reblooming with lavender making a great addition to this vase.


I am joining in with a few memes this week as I prepare these vases:  Cathy@Rambling in the Garden for her wonderful meme, In a Vase on Monday, Today’s Flowers hosted by Denise@An English Girl Rambles and Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday.




Next up on the blog:  

Monday will bring the wrap up of the Seasonal Celebrations posts from bloggers so you still have time to link up.  

I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Monday.



I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

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